Balancing acts: Writing and marketing

You don’t have to be a Libra to recognize the importance of balance.

I’ve always been a big fan of balance. And the more I grow, personally and professionally, the more important balance seems.

It’s everywhere. Ebb and flow. Yin and yang. Night and day. We call it “finding a happy medium” or “the middle ground.”  As writers, we call it “show vs. tell” and in every part of our lives we struggle to focus on details without losing sight of the bigger picture. We balance relationships with jobs and work with play.

So how do we balance our time for writing—nestled in between, sometimes encroaching upon the other aspects of our lives, like love, play, silliness, eating healthy, working out, cleaning house, paying bills, etc.—with the marketing aspect? When I first began writing, all I wanted to do was tell stories. And that’s still my priority, but I recognize that I don’t want to be a band playing to an empty room. It’s important to share those stories with others. That sharing gives a story life, breath, wings—whatever you want to call it.

I’m not a hotshot. I worry that I’ll be mistaken for someone who only cares about finding a market for her books. And although I’m not aiming for the NYTimes bestseller list, if I wound up there, I would be thrilled, terrified, excited, and confused. Yeah, I really don’t see myself there any more than my sociologist brother thinks he’ll be the next C.S. Mills or my actress sister thinks she’ll win an Oscar. But at night, sitting in front of the mirror, a girl can dream she’ll be the next Nora Roberts. Can’t she? 😉

I love books: reading them, writing them, and talking about them. Talking about my own work gets boring after a while. So there’s another key ingredient in this whole balance thing: reading vs. writing. I often link to other blogs or mention other writers because I find so much inspiration in the work of others, inspiration for the art of my work, the practice of it, or, yes, the business of it. I read a lot of books, and I read a lot of blogs, too. It provides me with support and guidance when I start to feel bogged down. While I can’t spend hours a day on the blogosphere (maybe I will, one day, when the gods accept my request to add a few extra hours into the day), I do read a lot of blogs, not always able to comment on as many as I would like.

We are storytellers, after all, so that means telling stories, a form of sharing. I think back to works like Beowulf, imagining a quiet, captivated audience being swept up in the story as it is relayed to them, perhaps amidst tankards of ale and long, wooden tables. Now, we have printing presses and e-book readers, libraries, and book stores; stories are told from across the dinner table or across the globe. Even blogs tell stories, and we all tune in. The number of stories out there is, well, astounding.

I read a depressing statistic: 93 percent of books sell less than 1,000 copies. Ouch. It’s enough to make you grab the nearest batch of cookie dough and build a fort out of sheets. Then, in the glow of a flashlight, we can write in our sticker-covered notebooks or glitter-splattered journals, lost in our own worlds. But as Samuel Johnson said, “A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.” Publishing is like giving birth; it’s one necessary step on the path of parenting our books and writing careers. And given the statistic I’ve just gloomily noted, I can’t help but wonder how we all find the courage to keep on writing, fighting against the odds.

It’s hard to see marketing as a part of the creative process. Still in the pre-published stage of my career, I don’t know what it will be like when I reach what seems like a daunting and overwhelming place in my career, knowing that when I do publish, a huge part of that burden will fall to me, to reach out and share my stories.

I know I can’t be the only one overwhelmed by this prospect. I’m also excited for it, curious about where my writing career will take me, determined to push forward even through the most difficult parts of this journey, and fascinated by the technological advances that change our industry. Blogging, e-books, social media, book trailers, Facebook pages…we have so many avenues, it’s easy to get lost.

So, for those of you in the fledgling stages of your career, what worries do you have? How are you building up knowledge for your future? What worries you most about marketing?

And for those of you who’ve already published, what is the hardest part about marketing? What advice do you have for the newbs among us? 😛

Thanks for reading. I look forward to hearing everyone’s comments.

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